Friday, November 14, 2014

DIY Poster Storage Unit

Storage and organization of school and house supplies in our house is an on-going battle.
We have so many things that require odd sized storage containers. Things that would be quite cost prohibitive to our budget, or difficult to find.

Case in point. Not everybody has a need to store a whole bunch of posters in their house. But this girl does. Educational posters of every size and description. So, my dear husband, built me something to store them all in.

Looks simple right? Simple, and built like a tank. Relatively cheap too.

It has worked to store those lovely posters for quite a while. I've been quite happy to have it, since something made of card board would run about $15 at the local store, but if you want to sort between types of posters, adding extra card board as dividers comes at $5 per sheet. I could also get a plastic, envelope like deal for about $20.

So for a while the size did its' job. Then I needed a bigger one. Nothing I could find really was quite right. None of it fulfilled my 'needs to be built like a tank' criteria. Save for the one that was gorgeous. It was $679.
Not gonna happen.

We decided the most budget friendly thing we could do was to modify what we had.
Using 2x4's, and ply wood, our resident 'stuff builder' added sides and a backing to the one I already had.
Three times.

Effectively we created permanent compartments that will allow for storage of different items.

We were going for functional, rather than pretty, but as a nice touch, The 'Stuff Builder' even made an outside cover for it, so it looked slightly better.

Looks raw, but it will definitely do what I need it to, and we won't have stuff falling all over the place.

I'll bet you're wondering what all of the compartments were for. Well, by the time I was finished loading it, I had loaded about 50 posters, a Wii Fit board, that one sad TV table that is still in our house, but didn't have a home, a crokinole board, three large art clip boards, a bunch of poster board, and a large folding card table.
Now all that stuff isn't just leaned up against my wall being knocked around by the kids.
For those who are curious, the total price tag on this project was about $30.

I'm so happy to have this problem solved.
I would wait to post this until it's painted, but I know that most of the projects around here hit 80% done before we abandon them. Paint would be the last 20% of this project.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Accentuate the Positive- reframing your child's frustrating tendencies

As a mama, I find that sometime it's easy to get discouraged.

My central job involves trying to raise my kids right, troubleshooting the eccentricities of the children, and also bearing the lions' share of the responsibilities that come with seeing, finding, and stick handling all of the challenges that come with that. 

Now, because of our mixed lot, we have some serious excess energy being expended, some big time messes being created, and 
some serious off-task activities happening here. We have stubborn, moody, strong willed, forgetful, disorganized, inconsistent, and nosy.

That can feel pretty overwhelming sometimes. 
Enough on some days to make a body want to pack up and go home.

Oh wait. We homeschool. I am home. Back to the drawing board.

Tongue in cheek, and to help me keep my sanity, I have to reframe much of what I see in the positive: 

 Their leadership tendency is so strong that they don't recognize anyone else's authority, 

They have will so strong that they will carry through on what ever goals they have to success. 

They get so into what they are doing that they can tune out everything else.

They are an individual so spontaneous they constantly have things on the go.

They feel so deeply. 

They are willing risk takers, and innovators.

They notices everything, even the smallest details. 

What creative problem solvers!

Such enthusiasm, and energy!

Super quick thinkers

And of course, what you see is what you get.

See, all of the things that frustrate one about a person can be reframed to see what's good about it. 
Have you ever heard the saying about a person's greatest strength is their greatest weakness? Well, I believe that applies here.

It's just a matter of stick handling that in the right direction. 
We work constantly at it. Sometimes the trickiest part is remembering to do this when you're frustrated.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Freezer Cooking: What Will I Do with all this TURKEY?!

In case you were curious about any of my time and money savers as a largish family mom, I'd have to say that freezer cooking is a pretty handy way to go about achieving both for our family. There is a time investment involved, but the time it saves after it's done really does make it worth the time taken.

An assembly line method of making several meals at one time that will last for anywhere from a couple of extra meals to an entire month worth of meals.

We choose to buy large quantities of supplies at lower prices, so we save money
We avoid take out, so we save money
Increases convenience: We assemble many meals at once, so we have prepared food on the days we can’t/don’t want to cook. In the case of month cooking, potentially several nights of freedom.
Promotes Nutrition: We know exactly what’s in the food.
Saves time: At dinner time on the day of, we have taken many steps out of the ‘what’s for dinner question’.
Promotes Hospitality: casual invitations to dinner become easier, also when we want to heat something and take it to someone having a hard time (family challenges, deaths, births etc.)

Often we will make a turkey or roast, and then don’t make full use of them. It’s a meal you already know your family will eat, and you’ve got a ton of it.
What if you packaged full meals in lasagna pans right away and threw them in the freezer? Label it, and you have a few extra meals. This can eliminate waste.
Other nights, make a double batch of something, or fill the biggest crock pot, or stock pot you have when you are cooking. Then immediately after eating, (or before if you’re ambitious) stock your containers, label and freeze them.
You can always work your way up from there to accumulating supplies for meals for a major cook, or continue to make triple( or more) batched meals, and rotate serving them through a menu plan.

There are some predictable times when you will find large amounts of the base items for freezer cooking on sale at fantastic prices. Summer is a great time to pick up zucchini, Rices go on sale with many of the Caribbean festivals, as advertised in the flyers. 10lb bags of vegetables (carrots, beets, onions, potatoes) go on sale when they come into season in the fall. Meats like turkeys and hams go on sale for us here in Canada before Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Under certain point programs that we have here, you can get free groceries, and time the spending of the points for when you know they will go on sale. With a little thought and planning ahead, that brings down the prices even further, and you can get the foods into the house that you want to make.

Some of the useful things you might find handy:
Lasagna pans- half height lasagna pans or smaller depending on whether you are storing a full meal, a sauce, or a side dish.
Ziploc Bags- they store reasonably flat
Containers that you would like to give a second use through re-use.
Sharpies and labels – you want to know what was in that container the next time you unearth it. Make sure to take note of your cooking date when you label, for food safety.
Multiple nesting stock pots- handy for making multiple types of foods at the same time, so that you can form an assembly line when the foods are ready. Having lots of pots to work with make it more convenient for the cooking stage, and storage is easier if they are nesting.


Check your local flyers for the foods, because that is a great bet for the loss leader sales.
For the storage items, they are less likely to go on sale, so check out some of the following if you need ideas. Locally, we have:

THE WHOLESALE CLUB- open to the public
 2255 Barton St East,  Hamilton,  ON  L8H 7T4

90 Glover Rd Hamilton L8W 3T7


100 Legend Crt. Ancaster L9K 1J3

1225 Brant St. Burlington L7P 1X7

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

5:30 a.m. arrived. She put her feet on the floor, and rubbed her eyes. Yes, five days in, the headache was STILL there.


She knew if she didn't get moving, the kids would get ahead of her, and she'd be dragging behind them kind of like the owner of a too-large dog, that is being taken for a ride by something that she thinks that she is in charge of.

The five minute shower that has become her hallmark occurred without incident.
Breakfast got made and laid out.
Then they started to come.

One by each, they arrived hungry and insistent.
Over half of them wanted something other than what had been prepared.

None of them wanted to get dressed.
None of them wanted to get ready for school.

Here we go again....

Yesterday had been rough. The raspberries that somehow made their way to being spread like jam all over the front hall were still fresh in her mind, as she considered the contents of the oatmeal bowl that were now splattered across the kitchen floor.

Today wasn't looking much better. To boot, it was still so early, and so much of the day was ahead of them. Sigh. It was enough to make a body tired.

Fortunately, she knew a few things:

1) Nothing lasts forever
2) Hard work pays off

So she put on her big girl panties, and made a decision.
That she wasn't willing to give up what she wanted most, for what she wanted right now.

What she wanted right now, was more sleep, and an uninterrupted bath. If we were really shooting for the moon, there would be a book involved, that was being read for nothing more than pleasure.

But what she wanted most, was children who understood that life is not all about them, that they need a strong work ethic to succeed, and that they learn to be good representatives of the God that set the example for them.

They spent a lot of time in the corner that morning.
They complained a lot about mom cracking the whip.
But they buckled down and eventually did what they were supposed to.

One sibling said to another, don't worry about unloading the dishwasher. I'll do it for you.

Still later
And then a little girl arrives with a piece of artwork, and the words "Mommy, I made this for you, because I love you so much."

Heart melting.

And for that moment, it had all been worth it.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gearing up for the New School Year- School Room Tour

We some time over the summer gearing up for our new school year, which requires a lot of prep work. We've been looking at what hasn't worked for us, in the hopes of tweaking things, in anticipation of  a smooth start in September.

We had been working hard to become more organized, because we have some disorganized operators around here, so we've made a gradual switch over this past year to a completely different shelving and storage system, in the hopes that it will help us out. Having five children learning in a space that is not huge, requires that I get a little more organized.

As you can see we do have a table for the kids to work at, but don't be fooled, they will work where ever they find themselves. Since the largest part of our school storage is in one place, I thought I'd give you a tour of our school room, so that it might spark some ideas as you make and tweak your own homeschooling experience. This has been something that I have worked toward for quite some time, so don't feel, if you are starting out, that you need to walk into homeschooling with an elaborate system. The state in which you see this room lasted about as long as it took to take the pictures, in the interest of full disclosure. :)  Just a reminder that one should not believe everything they see on Pinterest.

We began to accumulate these neat units from IKEA earlier in the year. I have always loved that when a small child starts pulling the books out of these units that a whole shelf full doesn't fall out. Just the amount of books in the cubby that the child is currently wreaking havoc in. It buys mom precious minutes to do damage control.

We used the cubby doors in the second half of last year, but realized that the kids have enough books and supplies, that we decided to expand and give each child (save for the youngest) two of these spaces. Then they can store their school books, binders, and the courier packs that hold their pencil cases and smaller supplies. We decided to use a label maker to make sure that all the spaces had the appropriate names on them. No arguing over things being misplaced. Easy Peasy.

We decided that since IKEA had one less pink cubby than we wanted, we would use an appropriately sized basket to put packages of crayons and pencil crayons for future use. We lucked out at a thrift store for them, because someone dropped off a matching set.
We are trying to work hard on each child having their own supplies, and each child being responsible for getting their own supplies into their own storage space this year.

Extra binders were stored at the bottom, since we tend to need to replace them frequently. We'll try to keep them as handy to the area in which they will be used, as possible.

We have many science related supplies, so we chose the upper drawers to keep the pieces in. Stickers, stamps and ink pads needed a place to go, and we chose this type of storage for them.
Our Kindergarten specific supplies and visuals needed to stay behind closed doors, so we chose a row to keep those safely tucked away, out of sight, out of mind, from the children most prone to pull things out and leave them every where.

We did decide that some of our art supplies, (plasticeine  art manequins, clay molding supplies) and laminated visuals, needed baskets that could be carried to the table and taken back when finished.
Clip boards canvasses and small individual chalk boards were big enough to take up a space by themselves, so they got a dedicated square.

 In unit number three, we have our Smaller odds and sods. We have pencils, and stickers, markers, dry erase markers and crayons, along with chalk board and dry erase board brushes in drawers.
Since we also have tech supplies, they are organized and labelled so that we have places for them, and the kids know where they belong.

This seems to be one of our biggest challenges. Having a place for things, putting them in their place.
It's also helping me prioritize how many things we keep.
As a pack rat, it's always a challenge, but I am learning that it's important to simply choose to keep only the things that I have homes for.

The bottom shelves of this unit have many of our resource books, leisure reading books, and small individual curriculum books that don't fit my core curriculum. Each cube has been arranged so that like books are stored with like, so that at any given time I can put hands on what I need quickly.

I chose this unit to store my teacher's manuals. I use BJU for my core, so there are many subjects that I have as base subjects. Teaching multiple grades, and storing the manuals from the 'off' years when they are not being used became challenging when I stored the 'off' years in another room, so this has been a positive change. No more changing these books out each year. no more carrying it all back and forth.  I just have have all grades together, but each cubby has one subject in it. So much easier than what I was doing before. The bonus is that I had space left over at the bottom to store my printer paper, lines papers and all the odd ball types of print outs that we need as part of the job.

That is the main core of our 'school room'. I'm so happy to have most of our school things in one place now, and I'm really moving forward hopeful that this new set up will help the kids keep things tidier and easier to find. We are a week in on our school year, and so far, so good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Not Back to School

I had a 'breath caught in my throat ' moment this morning.

Disturbing, and healing all at the same time.

All because we started back to school this week.

You see, I ended up with a very busy couple of weeks, between preparing to, and speaking for my weight loss support group last Friday, and preparing to and leading our local home school support group meeting on the first day back to school.

Makes for one busy girl.
Lots to keep my mind occupied, and if I am completely honest, a little overwhelmed with the busy.
Fortunately it's a 'when it rains it pours' proposition, and the rain doesn't last for extended periods.
So we have a quiet period.

My mind has  moment to process.

That's when it happened.

It's not that it hasn't happened before, but not quite this way.

I realized that we still have one missing.
One that DIDN'T start school this year.
One for whom the day to day responsibility for parenting is not mine.
One that I never got to bring home.

The quiet afford me the moment to think of what grade he would be entering.
That's when it hit me.
I didn't know off the top of my head.
The shock hit me that I actually had to think about it this year.
Devestated, because I never thought the day would come. For a second scared that I would forget. That I could ever forget.
Healing, because it wasn't the main preoccupation.

To all the moms not sending one back to school, or stating them back to a school year for the same reason,  or simply fresh in your missing your little one, my heart goes out to you.

Please take some time to be kind to yourself if you are currently struggling.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So It Begins!!! Back to School We Go.

Today was our first day back after a break from hitting the books! 
We spent a few weeks gearing up for the new year, and taking a well needed, well deserved break, and have gone back to it.

As you can see my boys are getting a little too old to be thrilled about our traditional back to school photos. Note cheese-y plastered on fake smiles.

They even went so far as to work diligently to avoid looking at the camera.

We have enjoyed our first day well enough, as unorthodox as it was for a first day back.

We had a few early risers who hit the books very early, and then we chose to get ready and change the scenery before too much of the day disappeared on us.

We took  advantage of the short lines and ran some early morning errands. It afforded us the opportunity to practice our every day courtesies; waiting patiently in lines for our turn, keeping ourselves occupied in a non-obnoxious way, making pleasant conversation with people.

I think it worked out well for us, because it gave us a break, before returning back home to finish off the book work.

Fortunately, we have had lots of cooperation today, because we have also chosen to  reinforce a forgotten policy,  whereby tech time must be earned, and only after the days' responsibilities are taken care of, rather than the kids making the assumption that they are 'allowed' to have tech time 'just because'.

I give it three days before the novelty wears off and we have to work to keep this going.

But for today, I'm proud of the work they chose to put in on their first day back to it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We've come a long way baby: For Better or for Worse

There is a saying that makes its way around the internet:
The couples that are meant to be are the ones who go through everything meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger.

It's true in a way. But it doesn't really reflect the work that's involved in making the choices that get you there.

I have great respect for prior generations that walked into marriage with the assumption of 'this is for life'. For better or worse. The days when marriages lasted Fifty, Seventy-Five years.

It's interesting though, when one is getting married now, how the 'worse' is glazed over.
In reality though, it's how you handle the 'worse' that manages how long you get to have the 'better'.

My husband and I have had our share of mountain top experiences: A wedding, a first apartment, a first house, six children, personal victories, the joys that come when we see the product of our hard work.

We have also been through the heart break that only life's stresses can bring: moving, adding children to the family, carrying a child with a fatal diagnosis to term, and then burying the same child, massive weight gain, and the fall out that is brought on a family when it happens, chronic pain, finances, large family stresses, special needs, mental illness in the family, and more.

We have chosen though, that both the victories and the failures, the joys and the struggles are going to be seen through the same lens. The lens of 'For Better or Worse'.

That fuels how we make our choices, and inevitably, our outcome.
 We don't do it from a place of perfection. The journey still continues.

So, today, I wanted to pause and wish my husband a Happy Anniversary. I'm ready to tackle the next chapter.
Fourteen years and counting, but I'm in this with you for life.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

But Daddy Told Me To!

A walk down memory lane if you please.... 

The date is September 6th, 2007.

I had a five year old, and a three year old. Much less busy than now..... To be down to two would be considered a vacation in today's terms.

Let me set the scene: A mother sits, checking e-mail, a guilty pleasure. The baby naps, the eldest is occupied. Bliss.

Alas, her "Mommy Spidey-Sense" goes off! It has been 15 minutes since the last check in with her eldest son. The suspicious quiet raises her from her seat, knowing these things must be investigated.

She is heavily pregnant, and waddles her large self down the stairs, hoping that this trip will have been unneeded.

The Nintendo game has been abandoned. The living room is empty. The paint, last seen on the top of the entertainment unit, taller than a five year old has a right to climb, is missing.

Fear strikes the heart of the mother. She calls to him. Calls that go unanswered.

There is only one floor of the house left to investigate. The basement.

She reaches the bowels of the house, and can hardly take in the carnage she sees before her.
 Paint on every conceivable surface in the basement. 
The washer, dryer, the drywall was that waiting for it's installation.
The walls, TV, dressers, both front and back.
The melamine cupboards, the table, the futon, and the carpet.

 A lid to a large  Rubber Maid container had served as his palate.   Four colours of finger paint, masterfully mixed. 

Stunned, and speechless, she lasts views a few pieces of paper with foot prints on them, before her eyes rest on the culprit, covered heard to toe was covered in multi-coloured  finger paint. He was working on painting a small table. A masterpiece in his eyes.

Words fail, but she collects herself, before she asks him "What were you thinking??!!!" 

His claim in Response? "Daddy told me to paint the table".

A miracle occurs, and the boys life is saved by the mother's sudden impulse usher the boy up stairs, to set him in front of a movie.
She proceeds to call her grandmother, who chuckles and distracts her whilst she spends some time cleaning.
The boys seems to know what is good for him in that moment, and chooses to sit, angelic, in front of the TV.

 Many surfaces turned out okay, but 45 minutes of time spent cleaning was very tiring.

She returns to the main floor, satisfied a long last,  that she has done all that she can do to rid the basement of the pestilent paint.
.He however, is indignant. "What took you so long?"
When there is no response, he continues "Can I have a treat?"

Somehow he still, in his five year old confusion, looked legitimately put out that I was not happy to hop-to and get him is desired treat.
Nervy kid...... and yes..... In case you're wondering he lives to tell the tale. The Grandma who so lovingly gave him thus aforementioned paint as a gift lived also.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

DIY Commercial Grade Bunk Beds

Living in a larger family has both its' perks and it's down falls.

Since we need products that will stand up under significant 'commercial' use, yet are living on a single income, we often find that my Dear Husband's knack for applying his Red Green type skills around the house often comes in handy.

So we have decided that we need to do the great bedroom switch around yet again, in order to better use our limited space.

So this will require that we get creative. Yet again.

This time, it will require the building of bunk beds. Cheaper than custom made, yet better than commercial quality. Score!

We started with 4 x 4's, and 2 x 6's and added joist hangers to the mix. This is beginning of the bottom bunk.

Next we add side supports and we added and installed slats in a 1 x 3" size. 'The Artist' was very happy to get in on the job, since it was hands on work, something he really enjoys. We also got to slide in proof to him of why we bother so much with Math class. See? Angles, measuring, counting and algebra are good for something!

Now, admittedly things were pretty sturdy, but sturdy won't cut it at our place. Next onto adding extra support for the base under the mattress. We need extra support, so this will stand up under the rigorous workload of large family living. We secured them in place with many screws, so that they will stay put!
There was a discussion briefly, about whether all this was necessary. Mark seemed unconvinced that he should have to go to the extra step. 
I did, though, have memories of my childhood, of a child on the top bunk having a pest underneath them, lifting the mattress through the bottom of the top bunk with their feet, because of the slat-type design. To the child that receives the top bunk, you're welcome. This design change is for you.

Once everything was well assembled, we ended up using some paint to 'pretty' things up. Two coats later and now we are ready for the mattresses and bedding. Not too shabby. 

This project has worked out really well. I know it's very simple in design, but we can add to it with decorative touches down the road when we are not as time pressed.

Just for curiosity's sake, I went online to do a price comparison, and see what we saved by dealing finding, and doing the work ourselves. I guess it's no surprise, but I had a hard time finding anything that was built this solid to be able to do an honest price comparison, with all the extra structural work we put into this, but as near as we could guess, we saved about $500. I'd say that was worth our time.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tales from the 'Use it or Lose it Shelf'

I was finding that our weekly grocery shopping days would always have a fridge clean out attached to them that was taking up too much of my time. We were also having the problem of a lot of waste going directly into the green cart for composting.

With a large family, and a desire to stretch our pennies, I thought "There has got to be a better way".

One day, it occurred to me that a change of approach might serve us better. When we replaced our fridge, creating more usable space, I designated one of the shelves the 'Use it or Lose it Shelf".

Everything that is near expiry date, or left overs, or that would otherwise be relegated to the farthest recesses of the fridge, never to be found again, until it had reached 'science-project' status, goes on this shelf.

We keep it there, because in a pinch, if we need to figure out something for dinner, we can immediately see what needs to be used up.

There are lots of websites out there that allow us to punch in the ingredients we have, and then it'll spoon feed us a recipe that will help us use those ingredients. Getting the kids involved can really work out well too. Helps them to learn cooking skills, and also problem solving.

This morning, the shelf had broccoli  and grape tomatoes on it. So our budding chef, 'The Planner', chose to make an omelette. Some eggs, and cheese and butter later, and Voila! What you see in the picture at the top of this post was born.

One less offering for the green cart!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Things we never thought we'd say (And then we had kids)

We have some pretty eccentric monkeys in our zoo. There are five of them, which almost never leaves us at a loss for strange goings on at our house. So keeping that in mind, we often have to say things that we never ever imagined would come out of our mouths.
Since someone ought to get a laugh out of it, here are snippets of our 12 years as parents. You might want to put that drink down now, and imagine trying to say this with a straight face:

"Gram, is there a procedure for cleaning a child's eye after he has peed in it?" (Josh was a few days old when he took advantage of an open diaper during a change. Chalk it up to being rookie parents)

"Please don't stand on the refrigerator."

"The contents of your diaper are not for painting with."

"Stop biting my sock!"

"Please don't lick the baby."

"Take the Marshmellow out of your nose."

"Honey, we don't tear the wings off flies and take them for walks. They don't like it."

"No, I'm not going to kiss your butt better".

"Sit up please. Your head is too close to the toilet water."

"Yes, I know you are done with them for the year. No, you may not burn your school books."

"Please don't lick the window."

"Spit out that worm. Wait. How many have you eaten?"

"No running with scissors."

"Hand over the diaper stash."

"You need to put on clothes BEFORE we leave the house. Yes. Underwear too."

"Fine. Oatmeal for a third meal today. Just eat SOMETHING."

"You need to stop drinking the bath water."

"Don't lick my arm" (Are we sensing a theme here?)

(On the umpteenth time being asked about 'what's for dinner')  "Frog legs and Purple Ketchup."

" Get down off the __________ I don't have time in my schedule for an emerg trip today." (Can you tell this one took on many forms?)

"No, I do not want to hold your booger."

Hope you found this fun, and that you add a few of your own at the bottom of this post!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Half The Girl I Used To Be: The Sky is the Limit

I followed up with the Bariatric Clinic, today, so I wanted to submit my One Year Appointment Update:

 I have a couple of vitamin deficiencies, none of which are major, and all of which are things that can be easily repaired with close attention. I get to work on making sure to get ALL of my vitamins and minerals in. All the time. No slacking off!

I have to get in with my endocrinologist or family doctor, because my thyroid medication dosage is now TOO HIGH!!!
I'm thrilled, because this was my only medical issue pre-op that was measured by medications I needed to take. It was also the basis on which the internist told me I'd never be part of the 3% that get off this amount of weight and keep it off, without surgery. So for comparison purposes, I've been on a really high dose for years. To need it reduced is really awesome. For me, comparable to the diabetic who wants desperately off their meds, and manages a serious reduction in medication needs.
It's quite possible that I'll never be entirely off the meds, but to know my system is behaving closer to normal, and will need less help to do so, is priceless.
( We'll see with re-assessment how much it's reduced by) 

All about the food
They have upped my calorie counts to prepare me for maintenance. I'm now officially aiming for 1200-1500 calories per day. I know. It seems low to the average person, but remember I've worked my way up from  15 mL cups, taken every ten minutes, and worked each stage, to get to this.
Some people think that once you're where you want to be, you can go back to what you were doing before. To keep what I've got though, this is likely where I will rest for life. (Give or take for exercise allowances) Discipline doesn't stop at one year. Clean eating and lots of  movement has to stay a good habit.

My protein is okay to stay at the levels I'd had them at, which was aiming for 80-100 grams per day.
I get to food journal at my new levels,  and come back in two months.  If nothing else more exciting comes up, I will then continue on to yearly appointments, until the five year mark.

Have we arrived?
They told me to consider myself at goal. Can't quite wrap my head around that one. It's been a year of driving toward what seemed like an impossible goal. What to do with transitioning toward maintenance?
Well, the new goal is daily compliance to the program, that's what.

 The excess skin, they said should be considered to be in the 10-15 lb range, so some of that weight I'm carrying' doesn't really count'. It's almost like the expectation should be of an adjusted BMI because of the skin. It's not a pretty side of going through this, but I can hardly complain. 
 I was reassured, that as far as goal was concerned, BMI is not a great tool for picking a number goal for weight. (We all knew that though, right   BMI doesn't take muscle into consideration.  Arnold Schwarzenegger would be considered obese.... pshaw.)

 Walking in to my appointment today, I was still pretty uncertain as to what my ultimate goal should be
The mental portion of this roller coaster still remains, as far as mentally thinking of myself at goal, but they say I'm there. I'm guessing they know what their talking about and now it's up to me to get my head in line with that.
A friend says that it's just like having graduated. Maybe she's right. Doesn't mean the work stops here, but man it's a great place to enjoy the achievement.

Now on to the exciting part. Everyone wants to know about the numbers, right?
I am down 147 pounds and they consider my results *not typical*.
Typical, they expect to be 30% of total weight loss.
My number was a hair under 48%.
So, for me, this is a good day. It took a lot of work, and a lot of great support to get me here, so I want to express a big thank you to all of you, for your support on this journey. I look forward to days ahead, and long term healthy maintenance.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Compassion in the younger years

A forgotten mouse trip hidden away became a spot of fascination of my three year old.


Some well deserved tears followed.

I removed the trap from her hand, and verified that she was going to be fine. That didn't stop the noise immediately, though.

In a flood of compassion, her two older sisters rush to her side, kneeling to help her. I was shoo-ed away. Seeing they had the task well in hand, I continued making lunch. Leaving them to their own devices.

The oldest hugged her, and said to the injured party "ah, you poor thing". I was feeling like this was a heart warming moment. I was so proud of them.

Suddenly, a knowing look passed between the two eldest. Something of tremendous importance was about to take place. I could just tell.

Conspiratorially, one said to the other "Let's count her fingers to see if she still has five." There was a stunningly mischieveous look on each of their faces.

Yeah, yeah. Multi-tasking at its' finest. What looked like compassion, had quickly turned into curiosity as to the actual effects of a mouse trap on a hand. A mere science experiment.

Only at my house.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Pocket Full of Victories

It's so amazing the difference one year can make.

I recently attended our annual Home School Picnic event. It's a celebration for some of us finishing our year, and for others a fantastic opportunity to get together with friends before continuing on with summer studies.

It was a ton of fun, and as a leader for the local group, it was so nice to be able to get to meet new people, and to get to connect faces with names, since I have the opportunity to get to know many of the people via social media long before I get to meet them in person.

I was however taken back down memory lane, because it's been a year since I really started in earnest down my weight loss journey road, and it was a marker moment, where I could look back and see the differences from one year to the next.

The proximity of the release of my one year blog post about having had Weight Loss Surgery to this picnic naturally brought up some conversation as to my success. The acknowledgment for my hard work has been wonderful, for certain. But something far cooler happened that day.

I had a person ask me an innocent question. "So were you this out-going before losing the weight?". My initial gut response was "No". Which I said at the time.

But the answer was actually much more complicated than that. You see, I was overweight as a teenager, but didn't start piling on serious weight until I got married. Then the babies came and the thyroid was diagnosed as problematic.

What I hadn't realized until later than day, is that my answer should have been "Yes". At one point I was this outgoing. But my battle with weight had taken it from me. Or rather, I threw it away with both hands, well over a decade ago, and had forgotten one more thing, that I didn't know I'd lost.
Not until it came back.

So to that innocent asker of the question: Thank you. You gave me a gift on Friday. A gift of realizing another part of my life that I have been able to take back. You know who you are.

You want to know another really cool thing that happened?
Look back up at the top.
See that picture?
See me standing there, with my shirt tucked in? Wearing a BELT?!

Yeah. That hasn't happened since roughly 2000.
That my friends is just one more in my pocket full of victories.
I am ever grateful.

(Thanks also to Rachael DeBruin of Diamonds in the Rough for taking the picture for me.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The View from Here: First Year Anniversary of Weight Loss Surgery

Some of you knew me before, and many of you didn't. Either way, I've been told by people that they didn't recognize me upon seeing me for the first time in a long time. It's been a pretty big year, with some pretty big changes. As you read this blog post, you'll see words that link to the other blogs posts from the series I've written. Feel free to catch up by reading those as well, if you missed them. It definitely gives more perspective to the before and after pictures.

June 17th, 2013 I took a leap, and changed my life by combining Roux-en-Y surgery to my tool box of tools to aid me in my weight loss struggles. So I am one year out from having had gastric bypass. It has been quite the year. This is a really good spot to take stock, of where I am now, and where I am going. This for sure though, is not the destination. 

When I began I was over 300 pounds, and have lost 145. I have literally lost a whole person. I have dropped from a size 26 pants, to a size 8. My shirt size went from a size 4x to a size large.

Now all of those numbers are impressive, but what really counts is the following:

  1.  I am no longer in constant pain in my back, hips, legs, knees, ankles, neck
  2. My balance is improved. Before losing the weight and increasing my movement, I couldn't right myself.  If I tripped over something, I went down.
  3. I now rarely wake up tired, before I woke tired,  trudged through the day tired, and often needed to nap when my children napped, just to get through the day.
  4. Where before, I was so miserable that I wasn't able to be the person I am down deep inside,  now I am experiencing the joy that comes with being able to participate more fully in life.
  5.  I can keep moving with no troubles now.

I have a ton of what we call Non-Scale Victories, and if you missed them, you can read them here in Non-Scale Victories: A few of my Favourite Things. There are so many things I got to take back during this process.
Changes I never anticipated

Sure, I knew I would lose weight. I knew I'd be raising the chances of being around for my kids. I knew I'd be able to move better. I was taking a fighting chance of gaining everything that actually ended up on my list of victories. But so much came out of this that I had no way to foresee:

1) My ideas about this tool were challenged.
I had to challenge everything I thought was true about gastric bypass. I found out just how much was under the surface, beyond the pretty and inspiring before and after pictures.  I had to make a pretty complicated choice  I had to challenge my, and other people's ideas about gastric bypass being the 'Easy way Out.' I talked about it in two posts here (Where I talked about the pre-op process) and here  (Where I told the story of my early post operative period). Now I know that there is a lot that goes into the process, and that this is a tool to be used in conjunction with other tools, to give the obese a fighting chance to get the weight off. There is no shame in using this tool. There is nothing easy about it.

2) Changing social circles completely.  

 I had friendships change for the most wonderful reasons. I began to chase down the opportunities to spend time with positive and inspiring people. People who shared my vision, and could see my goals, and chose to help me approach them with hope in trying to reach them. Some of those people were reaching for the same goal. Some of them were in-person, and some solely on-line. That made all the difference, to have the privilege of walking beside them.
I also had some people that chose to show unconditional support to me during that time, and it was such a gift. 

3) How differently people would treat me.
I had my suspicions and ideas in advance of surgery as to how people would respond to my surgery. Because I was afraid, I chose to keep it quiet until after it was done. The only people that got to know in advance were on a need to know basis.
I didn't realize some of the fat bias until I was being treated differently. It's just plain weird how fast chivalry from strangers comes back when you're not huge. How much smarter you're given the credit for being (or maybe it just removes the stereotype of being dumb and lazy when you lose the weight- who knows?)

4) How differently I would treat me. 
I was down right mean to me at times. I said negative, self-defeating things to me. I didn't believe anything positive anyone said about me. I chose to believe negative things that others said about me, true or not.  My misery had affected my outward behavior and it wasn't until I lost some weight, and started being happier, that I realized what an unhappy person I had become. When I started to be happier, people also responded to that, I think. 

5) How much this journey had everything to do with my head.
My focus changed- I developed a focus on being healthy and stronger, instead of being self-destructive. I became happy about not only every ounce I lost, but also in regaining the little things.  These things are now a novelty to me. Things that most people, never having been morbidly obese, take for granted.

I learned that I need to stop caring what others think so much. 
I talked about this more here in Don't Submit to the Court of Public Opinion 

How much gratitude would become one of my daily tools. 
I decided along the way that I never wanted to go back to where I came from. I appreciate the woman that got me to this point, but I need to maintain the growth. 
 That required taking inventory on many stops along the journey. I had the wonderful opportunity to share each of the small 'wins' with my support system.  I was so grateful that they played along, and not only cheered me on, but started sharing theirs as well. 
We were able to measure success in more ways than just our relationship to gravity.

It's one reasons I took so many pictures during the journey. I needed a reminder at each of the stops along the way how far I had come.

I'm enjoying the view from here, and looking forward to the work of maintaining what has been achieved.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gastric Bypass- The Easy Way Out?! Part Two

Last post, we started talking a little about the underside of the proverbial gastric bypass iceberg. The largest part. The part that no one sees. If you missed the first of this two parter, get caught up by clicking here.

Today, I want to carry on and let you know what work and elements go in to the early post operative period, by describing a little of what it was like for me.

Before surgery, I did so much research, and I really got to feel I knew what to expect.
I know that I felt much more settled, after I'd made lots of changes, and satisfied myself that this was the choice to be making.

I'd had my food funeral, I'd  gone through my two weeks of Opti-fast, and two days of clear fluids.
I'd filled my prescriptions, packed my bags. I'd made up a duotang with everything my mother in law was going to need in the coming weeks while she came in and looked after my kids for me. (What a wonderful gift of both her time and resources.)

There is something pretty sobering when you get to the part that you have to talk with your husband about what happens if for some reason you don't make it through surgery, but we had that talk too.

I was ready.

 Ready to jump into the unknown and take all the changes that came with it.

I happened to have a morning appointment for surgery, so I reported to day surgery unit, and checked in. From there I have made ready for surgery, gown, hat, IV and all.
My husband could only go so far with me, so we parted ways.
I didn't have long to wait though. I went through to the OR, met my surgeon for the first time and transitioned to the operating table. Not long after that they put the lights out.

Waking up brought some fun challenges. I had some pain to manage, some from gas left over inside, and some from the re-routing of my intestines. We are expected to get up and walking shortly after surgery, so that the gas will work its' way out, and to prevent blood clots, so that is number one on our to-do list. We get to race around the halls like snails in agony. I'm thinking I looked like one, anyway :)

The IV wasn't too bad to deal with, but I did find myself very nauseous. We were expected to transition from IV to taking fluids by mouth, and we had medicine cups to take fluids in. Imagine getting to pour all your efforts in to taking these tiny cups, and feeling completely full. It's complete culture shock.

That isn't all though. We get to shoot ourselves with a blood thinner shot for about a week after surgery. After a couple of days you get to go home and the real work begins.

The clinic wants you tracking your intake, walking, taking your vitamins, and working on getting as much protein as possible, in the form of protein shakes. They also want you getting 2 litres of fluid per day; going at a pace of about 15 ml. per ten minutes. Sip. Sip. Sip. It takes up a LOT OF TIME. It's really all you can think about for quite some time. It's a time that is taken over also by a need to continue dealing with your food issues, and handling any head hunger, because you're not feeling physical hunger just yet.

The cup on the right holds a little more than the amount we drank at a time early post op on full fluids.
The bowl on the right is a one cup rice bowl, my now typical meal size at a year out.

Moving around can be challenging, but they give you decent medication for pain relief.
For the first 6-8 weeks, they have lifting restrictions on you, nothing more than ten pounds.
You also refrain from doing strenuous exercise for that same period of time while you recover. But that's okay, you're busy with walking, and learning to eat again anyway.

There were clinic appointments early out, and we were well looked after, with some early opportunity to see our weight going down, and this was motivating. Motivation is something we need, because for quite a while the diet is kind of depressing. We spent two (or more) weeks on Opti-fast, and after surgery we need to be kind to our newly healing pouch. That means a gradual and slow reintroduction of foods. The first two weeks were full fluids. Are you tracking with me here that this is a minimum of a month of fluids? For those two weeks, our meals consist of 1/4 of a cup of fluid, and over that time, we stretch ourselves to 1/2 a cup. It doesn't sound like much,but seriously, most of us have to fight to get it in.

Imagine two more weeks of milk, low fat strained cream soup, and pudding, or sugar free jello, along with protein shakes.

Weeks three, four and five are much for interesting. After so long on fluids, you almost want to cry for joy when you re-introduce low fat cottage cheese, baby food textured meat, and egg salad, with no celery or onion. Even oatmeal and cream of wheat are pure heaven. But you still can't get much in volume wise. The portion sizes kind of look ridiculous to the average eater, and even to us. We can't believe that an amount that small would be satisfying, but there it is.
Week four brings back peanut butter. Mmmm pure heaven.
Week five, you get to reintroduce lean deli meats,  low fat cheese, and other meats. Bread products come back then as well. But only toast and things that break down well.

It isn't til about week 6 that bread itself comes back. Bread is where I found one of my problem foods. Sits like lead. Chest pain ensues. it's a bad deal. But as long as I respect my limits, usually things go pretty well.

After that what?

Week six begins the diet for life. We pretty much adopt a low fat, high protein, low sugar type of diet, that keeps the healthy stuff a priority. We're supposed to stay away from the sugar laden foods, that pre-op used to call us with intensity of a blinking neon sign. With good reason. Our new systems can not process it the way it could before we were altered. Should we overindulge, we have all sorts of lovely experiences, that could include dumping. Dumping is kind of like having rapid onset flu symptoms that last a couple of hours. If you're lucky, you bring up what offended. If not, you get to wait for it to work its' way through your system and exit quickly, to put it delicately. Best thing you can do is lie down and sleep it off.

It takes a while to reintroduce foods. You become careful about trying foods for the first time post-op any where other than home. It gets better though. After a big learning curve, you end up figuring out what you tolerate. You figure out what you don't.... but sometimes your delicate system decides to play tricks on you. So you learn to take a protein bar with you almost everywhere you go and not try anything you suspect might cause you trouble. Especially if you need to drive home ;)

On going, it's important to never forget where we came from, to track our food and exercise, and to keep it up for life. We proceed knowing that gastric bypass is just a tool; the one that made the rest of our tools work. The tool that gave us a fighting chance.

So, when I began this series, did you have any idea that this much went into it all?
Or did you think that the awesome 'before and after' shots were really all there was to the story?

To counter balance this, I need to tell you it's all worth it.

I lost 100 pounds in 6 months, and the non-scale victories started wracking up. (click here if you missed my list of favourites) You can't not feel motivated to keep up with all the necessary steps when you are getting immediate and marked results like that.
The 'flashing sign' demanding you eat all of your trigger foods is turned off for a while, and it is blessed relief, I am telling you. It didn't stay off forever, but it gave me a fighting chance for long term change.

I hear stories all the time in gastric bypass circles that people's success  is shot down by those crying foul that we took the 'easy way out'.The effective way out, maybe, but not easy. The farther out I go in this process, the more I realize that that 'easy way out' is really code for 'willing to pay a higher and more permanent price than anyone else for a chance to take back their health'.
In that case, I take it as a compliment.